Monday, April 27, 2009

The Quarter Pounder with Cheese has appeared in Hamamatsu...

I hadn't eaten a Quarter Pounder in more than twenty years... before yesterday. McDonald's in Japan is very similar to McDonald's in America, but there are a few exceptions. For example, the ebi burger (shrimp patty), the teriyaki burger (regular burger in teriyaki sauce with lots of mayonaise) and the seasonally-available tsukimi burger (a hamburger with a fried egg on top). But the menu didn't feature the ever-popular Quarter Pounder until fairly recently. And when it finally made its Japanese debut, it was available only in Tokyo.

Now, here in Hamamatsu, we have both the regular edition Quarter Pounder with Cheese and the ridiculous Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese. They both come in a neat little cardboard box which I'm hoping is environmentally sound in some way. And, Pulp Fiction aside, despite Japan's being a metric nation, McDonald's has done nothing to adapt this burger. It's a Quarter Pounder in a country where most people don't know what a pound is.

Here's a totally unrelated "Happy Set" commercial:

Interesting how a lot of the descriptions on YouTube for Japanese TV commercials include the qualifiers "creepy," "surreal" and "effed up!" Surreal isn't problematic, because it doesn't imply a value judgement. The other adjectives are cute and all and probably for the most part well-meaning. They're just becoming tiresome. Why were they specifically chosen, and who has the time and energy to refute these things endlessly on message boards and websites?

Certainly, many of these commercials are entertaining in a way not usually seen in American or European TV spots, but because these are Japanese they're under that extra-special scrutiny reserved specifically by Westerners for all things Japanese. There seems to be a prejudiced mentality that what we see every day at home is the base normalcy for the rest of the world and variations on that are wrong in some way, and Japan seems to be many people's favorite "other."

I can't support slandering an entire nation of millions of people as "weird" or "perverted." Pointless and quite incorrect generalizations based on ignorance at best and racism at worst. It'd be more beneficial for some of the people expressing these views to hold that same mirror up to their own societies, or try to look at the familiar with an outsider's eyes. It's not that Japan doesn't have its share of wacky, wild, out there stuff, but the glee with which these things are scrutinized also bears examination, and should come with the admission that our own cultural stuff is just as effed up and creepy. In some cases even more so because they come appended to a level of hypocrisy and self-delusion that's beyond belief.

We might deplore the perceived Japanese sexual obsession with school girls, for example, but ignore Britney Spears' having made her fame playing the Lolita angle and disingenuously denying being sexually active-- essentially a deliberate tease and yet another provocative pose-- for a good portion of her early career, and the over-the-top fascination with Anna Kournikova and her pouting blonde teenybopper looks despite her spotty play as a tennis professional. I guarantee all those Hermione Granger fan postings on various message boards by older male fans aren't as innocently concerned with her... I don't know what her appeal is, actually; I'm sure someone on the Internet Movie Database can fill you in, and gladly so. Likewise, find someone to account for Hayden Panettiere's fanbase and the way the media handles her, please. And then there's Miley Cyrus or Hannah Montana or whatever the hell her name is. Do you really believe all her fans are pre-teen girls? Remember the Mary-Kate and Ashley Olson "countdown to legality?"

Pervo is as pervo does.

To take another example, it's one thing to point out porn manga but it's another to realize you're the one also searching out and fascinated by this porn manga and that it's also being bought in the United States and other countries as well... and that Japan is not even the world's per capita leader in porn revenue. Okay, so it's number three (but the US isn't that far behind). China produces one third of the world's adult products and 80% of the world's sex toys and condoms. And the UK is evidently the world's fastest growing market for online pornography. And I don't even want to think about the stuff Americans are into. So being weird in some way is in the eye of the beholder, after all.

Remember-- while you're gazing at them, they're also gazing at you.

Well, that was certainly a digression. Hope it was a useful one. Hamburgers are on me, everyone.

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